Monday, May 18, 2009

The Florida Dispatches - 01

Departure from Bath, MI at 4:30 a.m. on Friday, May 15. Sunrise near Milan, MI, beginning a cloudless travel morning. We passed Toledo, OH by 6:15. Dayton by 8:30. Cincinnati by 10. Waffle Houses begin at Dayton. Saw a group of Amish commuting in a pick-up. Surprised to know they smoke tobacco. Saw Bowling Green University's football stadium. We stopped at the Kentucky welcome center for a picnic lunch. We rested. Saw a real mammoth's tooth. Listened to regional Dobro music. Snickered at "Big Bone Lick" t-shirts (from the neighboring State Park, which get this a lot from visitors). Then we continued on towards Chattanooga, TN. On the way, found a terrific commercial-free radio station WUKY broadcasting out of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. Pass Knoxville and Colonel Sanders' Cafe. Chattanooga brought a hotel room complete with breakfast the next morning and a Cracker Barrel restaurant serving us what would be our only real meal of the day. There's something authentic about a Cracker Barrel in the south. It's the dialect greeting you, "Y'all come this a-way, your server will be rait with y'all.", or asking, "Can I get that bowl for ya, sweetheart?" It's the sweet tea - the only way iced tea is served here, unless you ask for it otherwise (and you must ask for it otherwise). While in line, a gentleman caught Jacob smiling at him. He found our son adorable and commented on the number of teeth he now has. Then he asked if we had ever seen the YouTube video "Charlie Bit Me." I had. It's two British children playing. The older holds his brother Charlie and finds it funny when Charlie bites his finger. When Charlie actually bites the older brother's finger hard, there is a face of sheer panic on the older brother. Then, the now famous phrase "Charlie bit me!", is screamed. It was hilarious to hear a thick Tennessee tongue speak the British phrase. Two dialects in one. Then we were seated. Found the new menu items to be better than expected. For Carmen, the chicken pineapple salad. The campfire pot roast for me. This was a complete meal wrapped in foil and then cooked - as you would make at a camp fire. What is it about using a restroom in a Tennessee Cracker Barrel with Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Roger Miller playing overhead? It's the south. For many it's home. The hotel is comforting. We bathe the children. Jacob receives a split lip after tumbling on the bathroom floor. He bled on my t-shirt a bit. First time I've seen this since his birth. Reminded me that he's human, and that I didn't look forward to seeing it again. Stared reading a book about fatherhood given to me by my sister-in-law. It's a collection of testimonials from various names. Read about the paternal influence on Kris Kristofferson, Billy Jean King and the maker of Clif Bars. We slept like rocks.

Awoke at 6:30 a.m. to dress, pack and enjoy breakfast. Grits and oatmeal for me. When in the south grits are as common as sweet tea. On the road by 8. Georgia and half of Florida await. Atlanta by 10 a.m. Picturesque foothills stop and flat lands begin. Stopped to buy peaches, pecans and boiled peanuts at a farm off I-75. Carmen gets mini pecan pies. Nancy gets pecan clusters and butter pecan ice cream - best we've ever had. The boiled peanuts are lost on everyone, save for me. The smell is like cooked sweet potatoes. The taste like salted mashed potatoes. 16 oz. are consumed between here and Orlando, FL. By this time our group is road-weary and anxious to meet our destination. We ignore opportunities for free orange juice at the Florida welcome center, our first Chick-Fil-A, and visits to "We Bare All" Establishments. We press on and make the Turnpike by 6 p.m. Carmen locates dinner on the Garmin. Pollo Tropical - her first priority once nearing Orlando. A family dinner of chicken, black beans with rice, mac & cheese, and plantanos maduros (fried plantains) is purchased. We find our way to the resort and check in. Blue Tree is a nice sprawling complex surrounding four swimming pools. Basketball, tennis, volleyball, and shuffleboard (found outside our window) are available. WiFi access is $10. Towel service is included along with jacuzzi bathtubs and kitchens. Recycling bins available upon request. English now a secondary language. Surprisingly, there is a Giordano's Pizzeria around the corner (our favorite when in Chicago).

Sunday morning, May 17. Natalie's birthday. We wake at 6:00 a.m. and prepare for a big day. A character breakfast with Tigger, Pooh bear, Piglet and Eyore is scheduled for 9. We arrive at the Crystal Palace inside Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom to a great spread. Carmen finds Pooh's puffed french toast. I find quinoa, egg white omelets and smoked salmon. Natalie is too excited to eat. She draws a picture to give each character. First Tigger, then Piglet, then Pooh and finally Eyore. Autographs signed and pictures taken. Natalie marches in a kid parade lead by Pooh. Full bellies and $60 later we head for the Dumbo ride. Natalie wants to ride twice. After which, we ride the carousel - both times. We ride It's a Small World, Pooh Bear, and after lunch the Mad Hatter's Tea Cups (twice). Purchase cotton candy, and three Little Einstein characters. Still need to find a Leo. Enter Toon Town. See Goofy's barn, Donald's tug boat, Minnie and Micky's houses. Next door we meet the Mouses themselves. Hugs are given. Autographs. Pictures. Smiles galore. Natalie knew just what to do. She wants to meet more characters. We catch a train ride halfway around the park to Frontier Land for a chance to meet Goofy and Donald. Storm clouds cut efforts short. Cowboy Goofy is seen, however. We ride the Magic Carpet ride (twice) and cool off in the Tiki Room for a show before dinner. Pizzas and mac & cheese. Thunderstorm begins. Carousel remains open, and we ride one last time. We shop Main Street to stay dry and work our way out of the park. So does everyone else. Goodies are purchased along with Mickey Ear hats for Natalie and Jacob. Natalie falls asleep while waiting for hats. Carmen buys photo prints of Natalie with Minnie and Mickey. We ride the Monorail out of the park to the shuttle in steady showers. Spectacular lightening. Find our truck - located in lot Pluto 11. Home by 9:30. Bedtime soon after.

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